Save on Senior Pictures

My nephew, Brayden, played “Pomp and Circumstance” for the last time on Sunday. Next year, he will be marching down to receive his diploma! There are many things to do before that last march on the football field and the first one is best done this month.

When my youngest graduated from high school, we couldn’t decide where to get his senior pictures taken.

We had three options:

Photographer 1 took the senior pictures of my first two children.

Photographer 2 is a close friend of the extended family. So close, that her family has attended our family reunion for decades.

Photographer 3 is a relative of my daughter-in-law. She took a family picture of us after their wedding.

They all are excellent photographers and we worried about hurt feelings. Then I remembered the deal I made with Photographer 1.

My oldest son graduated in 2005. I saw a picture of a 2004 graduate that captured her personality, taken by Photographer 1.

When I called, I told the photographer I had a senior and a junior. I asked her if she could make me a deal if I had my daughter’s pictures taken there the next year.

She offered me two free family sittings. I used the first free sitting for my extended family in 2004. I never used the second one.

I called Photographer 1 and reminded her I still had a second free sitting. I asked her if we could use it for my youngest sons’ senior pictures.

She said, “Yes!”

They base sitting fees on the different outfits worn for pictures. In his case, it was $25.00 per outfit. Derek wore a baseball uniform and three other outfits for his pictures. That saved me $100.00 in sitting fees.

Derek's Baseball Picture "Saving Money on Senior Pictures" frugalfish.org

Top Ten Tips

1. Book your appointment in June. Most photographers will have a reduced rate or throw in free pictures for early bookings. My sitting fee for my first son was 75% off because I booked in June. Every photographer has their own incentives.

2. If you have more than one child, ask for a deal and have all of them photographed by the same one. The pictures will have a similar feel because each photographer has their own style.

3. Limit the outfits your child wears. This is especially hard with girls!

4. Ask if the photographer has a “Participation Bonus”.  You get a free gift or picture when your child is wearing a uniform: band, sports, even FFA.

5. Have your child be a model for the photographer for a free or reduced sitting fee.

6. Order the minimum number of pictures needed. Make a list of all the relatives you are buying for and write the size of the print you want for them next to it. Buy a large print for yourself and an 8 x 10 or 5 x 7 for your child. Don’t order hundreds of wallets. Derek graduated with 129 other students. I ordered 100 wallets for Luke and had a stack left over. I ordered 88 wallets for Laura and used them all. So, I ordered only 88 for Derek and used them all.

7. You may get more opportunities for free pictures later in the year by writing a review.

8. In January they go on sale. They contact you to see if you need more photos, sometimes at reduced prices. You can also get a copy of your child’s portfolio or picture DVD at a reduced price.

9. Some photographers throw in a free bonus picture if you pay in full when you place your order.

10. You can also get free photos and other freebies based on the amount of money you spend, i.e. spend $200.00 – get one freebie, spend $300.00 – get two freebies.

$ $ $ $ $ $ $ $

If your photographer is a family member . . .

  • do not expect a free sitting. This is how they make their living. Be willing to pay full price and be grateful if they offer you a discount.
  • do not expect them to clear their schedule to accommodate you.
  • do not cancel at the last-minute, unless it is an emergency, and pay them the sitting fee anyway.

Being frugal is not about being cheap; it is about making the most of your money!

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Resolved: More Weight, Food, Spending; Less Organizing, Travel, Reading

You read that title correctly. My resolution this year is to eat more food, gain weight, and spend more. I also plan on less organizing, travel, and reading.

More Weight

I can thank Jenny Kuhn for this resolution. Here is a picture of Jenny and me, with her daughter Kathryn, around 2005.

Jenny, Katie, & I "Resolved . . ." frugalfish.org

She moved to Arkansas and opened Jenny’s Gym. Last October, she competed in the World Powerlifting Alliance competition in Portland, OR. She is now the WPA-APA World Powerlifting record holder in the squat and the deadlift for the 45-49 age group in the 132# weight class. She also broke the previously held accumulative world record (squat+bench+deadlift), see here.

Jenny lifting in her gym "Resolved . . " frugalfish.org

 

Jenny regularly posts clips of her clients lifting. Most of the clips are of middle-aged women who are strength training. Sometimes she posts informational clips. When she explained the proper way to do a push-up, it changed my life.Jenny Kuhn "Resolved . . ." frugalfish.org

I usually tried doing push-ups from my knees, but that does not use all the muscles correctly. You need the same form as you would use to plank. Now I do them off of the kitchen counter and will move to the ottoman when my arms are stronger. If I do not keep control of my arms, I bump my forehead! I know I am using the correct form now.

Since muscle is heavier than fat, I plan on gaining weight this year. I want to gain muscle, not fat, and will concentrate on that instead of my bathroom scale!

Eat More

For the past few years, I would weigh myself on Monday and plan my meals based on that number. It didn’t work! I would gain a pound and then try to cut way back on my food. Of course, that pound stubbornly stayed.

This year I am going to work my body and feed it what it needs. I will eat bigger servings of salad, vegetables, and more meat. I never have been a big bread eater, but my sweet tooth is my downfall. That is where I will cut back.

More Spending

I am a saver and try to buy everything on sale. That is not always possible. This year, I want to buy things when I need them and not do without. I have lived under the poverty level during childhood and as a mother. I have no problem telling the difference between a need, a want, and a desire.

In my wallet now are 2 months worth of allowance! I also have a note of a few things I need to order. (Hello, sports bra!) I have watched the sales for over a year and have the money. I just need to get online and order it!

Less Organizing

Marla Cilley, aka The FlyLady, says over and over, “You can’t organize clutter.” But I can, and that is the problem! I organize things that I should send to Goodwill or pass on to family members.

There is a box with “Graduation” written on it in my pantry. My youngest graduated in 2015. I am hanging on to it for my sister-in-law, Melinda. I need to just give it to her, even though Brayden doesn’t graduate for another year.

Less Travel

I will no longer feel guilty for staying at home. There are many opportunities to go places and do things, but if I have to take a round of Prednisone to go, it is just not worth it! (Or worse, go without Prednisone and then fight a flare for two weeks.) I don’t care that I only go out 3 times a week for four hours. I have so much I love to do right here at home.

I know my Facebook page is boring, but I refuse to compare myself to others. I will travel vicariously with my friends. (Sorry, Jill, I have no desire to go clear up to the Arctic Circle. Enjoy your trip!)

I really enjoy the posts from Australia on the travel blog, outan’about.com. It was interesting reading about celebrating Christmas during their summer!

Less Reading

I can speed read. It is a blessing and a curse. I would normally go to the library and fill a large bag with 18 books every other month. (No, that is not a typo; it is eighteen books.) We have a great library that is always getting new books and the community buys books in memory of loved ones.

Obviously, I don’t watch TV at night, in fact, I will only watch a movie once. My family will put in a movie, and if I have already seen it, I go to bed and pick up a book. I can read a 300-page book in 2 or 3 days. The problem is, I get close to the renewal date and I speed read through my stash. That is not as enjoyable as slowly reading, savoring, and even taking quotes from books.

This year, I will only check out 8 books at a time and will make sure one of those books is nonfiction. I am on chapter 2 of the book, “Smarter Faster Better” by Charles Duhigg. There are many things I would like to do, but I get bogged down in laundry and cooking. I want to make those tasks more efficient to allow time for fun stuff!

Smarter Faster Better book "Resolved . . ." frugalfish.org

“If you will live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.” Dave Ramsey

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Goodbye 2016

We said goodbye to a lot of things this year.

  1. In January, we said goodbye to dollars when our health insurance increased 50%.
  2. Our farewell in February was to our furnace.
  3. March came in like a lion when I had emergency gall bladder surgery.
  4. We bid adieu to our central air in April.
  5. May was not mild as we watched our washer die.
  6. Fireworks came early when a lighting strike killed our computer in June.

I thought we finished saying goodbye as the second half of the year passed uneventfully. But we were just getting ready for the hardest goodbye of all when my father-in-law died. You can prepare for some goodbyes with an emergency fund, but death always comes unexpectedly and too soon.

It reminded me of what is truly important – family. You can’t pick your family, and we may drive each other nuts, but during the hard times, that is who we lean on.

I also don’t know what we would have done without our friends and our church. The meals they brought over were wonderful and filling. Who can resist lasagna?

So, for 2017 I am going to try harder to spend more time with family and friends. (But first, I’m going to give myself time to grieve.) A wise man told me, “People are more important than things!”

Invest in people, not things, in 2017!

December calendar "Goodbye 2016" frugalfish.org

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You need a 2-Speed Fan and a 2-Speed Motor When You Add AC

It was 1988. My son and I had just been diagnosed with asthma. I already suffered from allergies and it was strongly recommended that we get central air to keep the pollen out.

We had a small income tax return, so I went to my favorite plumber, the plumber we used at work, and a plumber who attended school with my husband. The third plumber’s bid was half price of the other two.

Now our memory gets fuzzy. I say we chose the last one because my husband wanted to help out a classmate. He says we chose the last one because I was so cheap.

Frugal is being smart. Cheap is taking the cheapest bid.

It was a mistake. A week after the central air was installed the motor burned up. The classmate installed a different motor and that was the last we heard from him.

Then the nightmare began. It just wouldn’t cool. Our favorite plumber tried every test and every trick, but the house was always 10 degrees warmer than the air outside.

We had our electric company do an energy audit twice during those years and still could not figure out why it didn’t work.

Finally, in desperation, we called in a friend who handled industrial heating and cooling in businesses in the area. He listened to everything we had tried over the years and ripped the thing apart.

What he found was a one speed motor that was wired to a two-speed fan. When you have central air you must have a high-speed on your fan to push the cool air up. In the winter, heat rises, so you can move air with the low-speed.

He put on a two-speed motor and IT WORKED!!!

We had three days of temperatures over 100 degrees and my house stayed consistently at 77 degrees where I set it.

Then we were sick when we realized for over two decades we had been cooling the bottom two feet of the house and since the cool air never reached the thermostat, the air ran constantly for weeks at a time.

I called my favorite plumber and reported what we found.  I am not going to see him as much now. At least not to work on the air conditioner! I also wrote a letter to the electric company with the findings in case the auditor ran into a similar situation.

It was a painful lesson to learn. It is better to wait until you can do it right than to take a bargain.

We added central air to this furnace.

We added central air to this furnace.

In Honor of My Son’s Birthday

I thought the happiest day of my life was the day I married David.

I was wrong.

The happiest day was when our son, Luke, was born. I never thought I would feel more content.

Then my daughter, Laura, was born and little baby girls are so sweet. It couldn’t get any better. Right?

Nope, when our youngest son, Derek, was born there was such a feeling of satisfaction…our family was complete.

Or so we thought.

Then Luke married Bethany. It was the best party I have ever attended and such a sweet day for David and I to share.

It just doesn’t get any better than this!

Wrong again.

I watched Luke walk on air right after his daughter, Olivia, was born and in that little bundle of pink was happiness, joy, and contentment like I have never experienced before. People try to explain it, but until you become a grandparent you just can’t understand.

You get all of the wonderful things a child brings…plus you can send them home and go to sleep!

Occasionally, our granddaughter will spend the day and I had trouble getting her to take a nap. Then I had a brainstorm.

Since she loves camping, I made her a tent. She loved it. All I did was drape a fitted sheet over 2 chairs at each end of the air mattress.

In fact…her grandpa loved it too! I caught him napping there on the weekends!

Temporary Canopy

 

Could You Live on 18% of Your Income?

Yes…if you had to.

I did the math again last week to see what percentage of our former income we were living on this year. It is down to 63%. I thought that was pretty good until I heard of a man whose income was cut to 18% and he not only survived, but now does what he wanted to do all of his life.

The man was a successful surgeon. His father was a successful preacher. He wanted to go on medical missions trips and help others around the world.

His father died and he felt God telling him to close his practice and go help in his father’s church. No, he did not become the Pastor. He helped, behind the scenes with no glory or recognition.

He lived on 18% of his former income and just helped for six years.Then he was given the opportunity to go on a medical missions trip. He knew he was where he was supposed to be.

Now he spends six months out of the year on medical missions trips and the other six months he helps his brother, Joel Osteen, at his church called Lakewood. His name is Dr. Paul Osteen.

To give you a visual picture of 18%, I decided to post a photo of the leftover shepherd’s pie.

18% of a Shepherd's Pie

 

Frugality is Not Equivalent to Miserly

Frugal people are the most generous people I know.

My first encounter with a frugal family was after I married. Shortly before the wedding, my then fiance’ was laid off and money was tight. Between the two of us we worked 10 part-time jobs.

I will never forget our first weekly budget: Rent – $40.00, Food- $10.00, Gas – $7.00. We didn’t eat much and the only place we drove was to work, the grocery store once a week and church.

One day after church we came out and found a ten-dollar bill stuck under our windshield wiper.  It didn’t take long to find out who our benefactor was and it was very humbling. This family was in the same boat we were in and they had two small children.  But I never will forget the joy on that man’s face when he said he was so glad he was able to bless us.

Recently, I shared with you about replacing the motor on our air conditioner. I waited for the bill with fear and trembling. I had less than half of the estimate in my maintenance account, but the motor he actually installed was smaller than the motor he gave in the estimate.

I saw him at church and felt guilty for not telling him I had not received a bill. So last Monday I called him and left a message. Yesterday, at church, my husband asked him for a bill.

He grinned and said, “It has been paid in full!”

What a blessing!

I decided to accept this “Random Act of Kindness” graciously. I will not turn into a detective and try to figure out who it was and I will say “THANK YOU” here. I also intend to look for opportunities to do the same for someone else.

Their “Random Act of Kindness” actually supplied two needs. Not only did they cover the bill for the motor, that amount in the maintenance fund will cover the increase of our property taxes that is due by Friday.

This is my fourth year of not earning a wage. I stepped down from my job due to my health. ( I worked for a (501(c)(3)) organization and did not even receive unemployment.)  God has provided for us over and over. I found I have to take each time my husband’s income is reduced as a challenge. Each time there is a bill that is larger than expected, I have to trust God to provide the funds, one bill at a time.

While I am facing my challenges, I am also deriving great joy from giving to others. There is actually a category in our budget for charity. As I have been blessed today, I will turn around and bless someone else. It may be as simple as getting a box out and looking for items to donate to Good Will.

 I know from experience it is better to give than to receive!

Two Year Reprieve on the Tax Cut Bill

The Tax Cut was extended for two more years. I am glad that taxes will not increase, but I am also glad that I had several months believing that it would. It forced me to examine my spending on a deeper level than I had before.

It also made me look at my sources of income. What would I do if this source were suddenly to stop?

It relieves a lot of stress if you have a plan B. My kids ask me what I would do and I told them the steps I would take. I let them know we would not be homeless or run out of food. They have watched as our taxable income has decreased every year since 2007.

They weren’t as thrilled as we were when we paid off our credit card and auto loan in 2009. But the next time we had to tighten our belt it was easier because we did not have those payments.

I look forward to 2011. I plan on growing more of my own food. We are taking steps to make our home even more energy-efficient. (I plan on taking the drawers out of the kitchen cupboards and caulking the space between the molding and the floor behind them.)

There is always room for improvement!